Information for Researchers Engaged in Foreign / International Relationships and Activities


UC Santa Barbara remains committed to the freedom of inquiry and open innovation. We support a diverse global community of researchers and are proud of our history of international collaboration. We understand that both are critical to our university’s research mission. At the same time, the university has an obligation to be a good steward of Federal and state research funding.

Beginning in 2018, several federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy, have publicly communicated specific concerns to universities across the country around undue “foreign influence” on federally sponsored research. The term “foreign influence” in this context refers, in part, to attempts by foreign governments to unfairly exploit U.S. researchers for that country’s gain.

Federal funding agencies are particularly concerned about a failure to disclose foreign financial support on grant applications, failure to disclose foreign conflicts of commitment or interest, and the improper sharing of confidential materials (e.g., those available through peer review). As both a state funded institution of higher learning and a recipient of federal research funding we have a responsibility to ensure transparency and integrity in all of the above matters.

It protects everyone’s interests – the Federal government, UCSB, individual researchers, and their international collaborators – to have certain international relationships disclosed and reviewed to determine if there are any potential conflict of commitments, duplications of research, and/or diversion of intellectual property in the performance of federally funded research.

In extreme cases, failure to disclose all relationships could result in the termination of funding for a project and potential ineligibility for future funding. Noncompliance not only threatens funding for individual projects, but overall funding for the University and from federal appropriations as a whole.

Guidance for Researchers

The Office of Research is here to assist UCSB researchers with understanding and appropriately responding to this issue of foreign influence. The guidance on this webpage is merely a starting point, and you are encouraged to contact the Director of Research Integrity with any questions or concerns. The UC Office of the President has also created a comprehensive resource on this topic, which contains additional background information and links to relevant UC system policies.

Guidance regarding the types of relationships and activities that UCSB researchers are expected to disclose, as part of existing university and federal funding requirements, are summarized below. While much of the below guidance is broadly applicable to all research faculty, some of the guidance is specific to Federally funded research. Please note that each Federal sponsor has their own specific guidance, much of which is currently being revised.

A. Federal Funding and Foreign components

Federal research sponsors have expressed specific concerns about a lack of complete disclosure of foreign components of proposed/awarded projects (i.e. relevant foreign collaborations that are expected to result in shared authorship). Historically, universities interpreted funding agency guidelines to mean that only activities with an effort commitment and a scope of work should be disclosed as “Other Support”. However, agencies are now communicating a more expansive interpretation of their existing guidelines.

Funding agencies appear to be particularly concerned about PIs “double-dipping”, meaning they are receiving funding from multiple sources for the same specific research project. Funding agencies are reviewing foreign collaborations or activities that appear to overlap, or create an over-commitment, in relation to the PI’s Federal funding. In particular, agencies are comparing funding sources listed in publications with funding sources reported in grant proposals and progress reports.

It is the PI’s responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in the “Other Support” or “Current and Pending Support” sections of proposals and progress reports.

1. Foreign Components

Foreign components of federally funded research must be disclosed on proposals, progress reports, and final technical reports. NIH defines a Foreign Component as “any significant scientific element or segment of a project outside of the United States, either by the recipient or by a researcher employed by a foreign organization, whether or not grant funds are expended" [emphasis added]. Foreign components may include a large number of collaborative activities, including “collaborations with investigators at a foreign site anticipated to result in co-authorship; use of facilities or instrumentation at a foreign site; or receipt of financial support or resources from a foreign entity.” Other sponsors have similar requirements to disclose foreign components.

There are multiple ways in which foreign components can be disclosed, e.g.,

  • Identifying a “foreign component” in a grant application;
  • Listing a “non-U.S. performance site”;
  • Identifying foreign relationships and activities in a biosketch;
  • Checking “yes” to the question on the Cover Page Supplement Form asking, “Does this project involve activities outside of the United States or partnerships with international collaborators?”

Principal Investigators (PIs) should review all pending proposals and active awards to ensure that all foreign components have been disclosed. If a PI identifies an omission or error in a previously submitted proposal, the PI should contact their designated Sponsored Projects Team. If you are unsure who your Sponsored Projects Team (SPO) team is, please visit our staff directory.

2. Other Support & Current and Pending Support

UCSB researchers should ensure they disclose all applicable “Other Support” as required by federal sponsors.  “Other Support” may include financial resources, domestic or foreign, available in direct support of a researcher’s research endeavors. Such support should be disclosed on an “Other Support” or “Current & Pending” form. The Office of Research has created detailed guidance on how to complete “Other Support”. Some sponsor guidelines may specify that all sources of direct research support be disclosed, regardless of whether they are awarded through UCSB, through another institution, or provided directly to the researcher.

Financial resources should be disclosed to the sponsor, even if they relate to work that is performed completely outside of a researcher’s appointment period. For example, if a researcher with a 9-month appointment spends two months at a university outside of the U.S. during the summer conducting research under a foreign award, that foreign support should be disclosed.

Most federal sponsors will have their own guidance on how to complete “Other Support” forms, and several sponsors are in the process of updating their guidance. It is ultimately the responsibility of the individual researcher to ensure that the report of Other Support is complete and accurate to the best of their knowledge, but PIs are encouraged to contact us if they have questions about reporting a particular activity. If a PI identifies an omission or error in a previously submitted proposal, the PI should contact their designated Sponsored Projects Team.

3. Talent Programs

An issue that is garnering a great deal of scrutiny by the federal government is participation in malign foreign talent recruitment programs. The U.S. government has placed restrictions on researchers participating in such programs as outside activities and has published guidance on the characteristics of a “malign” program. Contact the Director of Research Integrity before entering into an agreement or engaging in an activity involving any of the following.

  • Engage in unauthorized transfer of intellectual property, materials, data products, or other nonpublic information owned by a U.S. entity or developed with a Federal R&D award to the government of a foreign country or entity,
  • Recruit trainees or researchers to enroll in a talent recruitment program or accept a position at the foreign entity,
  • Establish a lab at the foreign entity,
  • Accept a faculty position or other employment, while maintaining full-time employment at UCSB,
  • Contract terms do not allow you to terminate involvement in the program except in extraordinary circumstances or with foreign government approval,
  • Commit to a specified amount of time working at the foreign institution,
  • Engage in work that would result in substantial overlap with your UCSB research,
  • Apply for and receive funding from the foreign government that is awarded to the foreign Institution,
  • Omit acknowledgement of the foreign institution or U.S. federal research sponsors, or
  • To not disclose to UCSB or a Federal sponsor your affiliation with the foreign institution.

4. Conflict of Interest disclosures

Certain financial interests in a foreign entity, including governments and universities, must be disclosed to UCSB in accordance with applicable federal, state, and UCSB requirements. At UCSB, separate disclosure requirements apply to those applying for, or accepting, funding from the National Science Foundation, Public Health Service agencies (NIH, CDC, FDA, etc.), and non-governmental sponsors. If you have questions about updating a disclosure or whether a specific activity must be disclosed, please email 

While NIH exempts disclosure of some activities conducted for U.S. institutions of higher education, foreign entities are not exempt from the disclosure requirements.

5. Conflict of Commitment disclosures

In addition to disclosure of financial interests to UCSB, there may be additional disclosure requirements for outside professional activities. In accordance with university policy, only Category I outside activities require prior approval. Other outside activities may only require annual reporting to UCSB. It is possible that you may need to list these activities within sponsored research proposals or progress reports before they are disclosed to the university. A few common examples of outside activities include: consulting, teaching courses at outside organizations, or entrepreneurial ventures related to your area of research.

B. Protection of data, software, devices, and intellectual property

In the context of “foreign influence”, the federal government has shared concerns about improperly safeguarding certain types of privileged information. Through the peer review process, faculty may have access to confidential information or Intellectual Property in grant applications. Funding agencies are particularly concerned about peer reviewers sharing this information without authorization (see this NIH blog post from December 2020). 

Individuals researching dual-use technology and/or sensitive emerging technologies should be particularly vigilant about safeguarding confidential information or Intellectual Property.

  • If you have concerns about safeguarding your data and devices or require a secure computing environment for your research, please contact the Office of Information Security at

C. International visits and hosting international visitors

Federal agencies are highly concerned about improper diversion of intellectual property and unpublished research results, which is distinct from collaborative activities, routinely engaged in by faculty.

International travel
Travel to sanctioned or embargoed countries may have restrictions or require a license from the U.S. government. Some other destinations are considered high-risk, and we recommend that you follow guidance from the U.S. State Department. You are encouraged to take appropriate precautions when traveling with electronic devices. When traveling to high-risk countries, you should not take devices with unpublished or confidential research data. For more information, please see the guidance provided by UCSB’s Information Security.

Some forms of technology and consumer goods are subject to export controls, even if your destination is not a sanctioned country. Items, such as University owned laptops or tablets, that are kept under your effective control and returned to the U.S. within 12 months are generally exempt from export restrictions. However, other research and high-tech equipment may require review by the Export Control Officer to determine if an export license is needed.

International visitors and scholars

University faculty and staff routinely host international colleagues for short-term visits to campus. In rare cases, visiting scholars may be pressured by their home countries to inappropriately access information or research facilities and equipment.

If you are asked to facilitate the visit of a foreign delegation or asked to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with a foreign institution, please contact Global Engagement. A formal review process exists for these types of activities, and such agreements may only be signed by authorized individuals.

How To Get Assistance

Existing activities or general questions - Specific questions regarding export compliance should be directed to the Export Control Officer, Brian McCurdy, ( and general questions about any of the guidance on this webpage should be directed to the Director of Research Integrity, Barry Rowan, (

New outside professional activities - Faculty members are encouraged to contact their Department Chair about any concerns regarding participation in a Category I or II foreign professional activity related to their research efforts. Depending on the nature of the activity, the Chair may refer the faculty member to the Director of Research Integrity for further discussion.

Grant reporting - Questions regarding individual grants and contracts can be directed to your designated Sponsored Projects Team. If you are unsure who your SPO team is, please visit the sponsored projects team website.

Training resources

UC Research Security Videos

UC Riverside’s Center of Excellence for Risk & Safety training has developed four Research Security related videos. The following short videos can be accessed through the Learning Center by clicking this direct link. Once you start the training, you will be able to select any of the following topics. In addition to the topics listed below, more in-depth training is available at the Learning Center on Export Controls or Restricted Party Screening.

Disclosures: Conflicts of Interest & Conflict of Commitments
Conflicts of interest (COI) and Conflict of commitments (COC); what to disclose; how to disclose; foreign talent programs, and resources.
(Length: 4 min 35 seconds)

Talent Recruitment Programs
Overview of talent recruitment programs, how to recognize talent recruitment programs, risks, reporting requirements, and resources.
(Length: 3 min 50 seconds)

International Collaborations
Basics of export control, restricted party screening, fundamental research exclusion, risks & considerations, and resources.
(Length: 3 min 50 seconds)

Data Security
Transfer of materials, ideas, or information; data security, international travel, export control considerations, and resources.
(Length: 3 min 20 seconds)

NSF Research Security Training

In early 2024, NSF released a series of Research Security Training modules. These modules are intended for researchers and administrators supported by federally-funded research. There are four modules (~60 minutes each), covering the following topics:

  1. What is Research Security?
  2. Disclosure
  3. Manage and Mitigate Risk
  4. International Collaboration



Do these issues only apply to NIH grants?

No. The Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy have also issued statements regarding this issue. Given the current U.S. Government focus on this issue, we anticipate similar guidance, statements, or requirements will be forthcoming from other funding agencies.

Do I need to make disclosures related to the work of my graduate students if they are foreign nationals? Does this affect Postdoctoral scholars?

In most cases, there is no reason to disclose participation of foreign students or postdocs on sponsored research, especially if all such work will be performed in the U.S. The university Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action Policy states that the university does not discriminate on the basis of citizenship. UCSB, therefore, generally does not accept public and private sponsors’ restrictions of research based on citizenship.

However, there may be cases where working with a student or postdoc might be considered a “foreign component,” e.g., if that student or postdoc is performing effort in a foreign country. NIH defines a foreign component as “any significant scientific element or segment of a project outside of the United States, either by the recipient or by a researcher employed by a foreign organization, whether or not grant funds are expended."

Can I add disclosures to current projects or proposals?

Yes – contact your designated Sponsored Projects Team to have your application corrected. If you are unsure who your Sponsored Projects Team (SPO) team is, please visit our staff directory.